The Hardest Age

If you ask a parent of a newborn what’s the hardest age – babies or teens, I’d bet that they’d say babies.  I probably would have myself.  I couldn’t imagine anything more life changing than a colicky baby, screaming to be held, nursed, changed…you name it.
If you ask a parent of a toddler what’s the hardest age – toddlers or teens, they’d probably agree it was toddlers.  Who wouldn’t agree that parents chasing around tippy, bobble headed two- year-olds and temper-tantrum throwing three year olds would want to change places with parents of sixteen-year-olds any day.
But if you ask me, I’d say parenting at any age has its challenges and absolute head shaking, I can’t-believe-this-is-my-life moments.  I’m in one of those moments right now.
I am the parent of a sixteen-year-old licensed driver.
Somehow, I survived the torture of teaching her driving basics.  Upon close inspection, I’m sure you could see the fingernail imprints left in the passenger seat’s armrest.  Surely, I wore down the floor mats with my impulse-ridden imaginary braking.  I guess I did something right, because she passed her behind-the-wheel test on the first try.
Adding her to our auto insurance policy wasn’t even that bad-I suppose parents of teenage boys have it worse in that regard.  She took care of all of that herself, bought a new wallet to carefully display her new photo id, and even got a lanyard to responsibly clip her/our car keys onto.  She hardly begs to drive the three blocks to her high school, and still rides her bike to the gym.
What do I have to complain about?
Nighttime.  It terrifies me.  It’s my baby, driving in the dark, alone-or worse-with other teens.  It’s the parents who bow out of the pack and allow their teens to break the new law that forbids teens to drive their friends in the first year of their licensing.  It’s the “I’ll be home before 11:00 p.m.” speech.  Frankly, it’s every time I see her back out of the driveway and scrape the front end of our Prius against the sidewalk.  Sheer terror.
It’s not that I don’t trust her-she has never given me reason not to.  It’s not that I worry she’s going to get a ticket, drive drunk, or take off on a spontaneous road trip.
No, really what terrifies me about having a teenage driver is the same thing that made me lose sleep when she was a newborn, and collapse from exhaustion when she was three.  It’s that overwhelming, mind-numbing, head shaking, I-can’t-believe-this –is-my-life feeling.  It’s love.  All-consuming, overwhelming, turn-me-into-a-fierce-protector kind of love.  And watching her drive away breaks off a little bit of my heart every time.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Honestly, since my kids were babies, I’ve dreaded the teen years. Maybe because I work with them and see that the perceived control parents have over them ends and that reality sets in- we must trust and have faith that they will be okay. Or maybe its because I remember being a teenager and feeling invincible and taking unnecessary risks because I could and not wanting my children to take unnecessary risks to learn. Funny how the same love that gives us immense joy is the love that creates fear and vulnerability. Ahh motherhood….

  2. Now I know how my Mom felt when I went through those ages. And I can’t believe I will be going through those same things (as a parent this time) with my son! I wish we could just keep them at home, safe and sound where we can watch over them and make sure no one hurts them. I’m glad I still have 15 years until my boy decides to be independent. For now, I love how he’s very close to me and seem to need me every step of the way.


    Roxi @ Mr. Jacob’s Mom

  3. Since I’ve been through all the ages, I have to say that teens are the hardest. Almost overnight they turn into someone I don’t even know, AND, I’m not #1 on their list anymore, AND, they keep wanting to leave the safety and love I’ve tried so hard to build in our home….BUT they are also the most FUN! New adventures lay around every corner and they are becoming adults.

    Giving my kids a drivers license is scary and heart wrenching, I love how you put it: “And watching her drive away breaks off a little bit of my heart every time.”

  4. I am probably the one one who thinks the toddler years where the easiest. The teen years are brutal. Hormones are ragging and nothing fits – emotionally for them – and we’re on the sidelines trying our best not to smother but to be strong. It’s hard. Wait for the moment she comes home and tells you of her first true heartbreak.. It nearly killed me. Hugs. Be strong. If it makes you feel better the first time my girl pulled into the drive way she took out the fence.

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